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Disappointing News from American College of Physicians

On September 19, the American College of Physicians (ACP) Board of Regents reaffirmed the organization’s longstanding opposition to “assisted suicide,” despite the fact that medical aid in dying has been practiced by hundreds of physicians in six states for more than 30 cumulative years. Read the Paper.

In contrast to the ACP, a growing number of professional medical associations have withdrawn opposition to medical aid in dying in favor of engaged neutrality, including the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine and the American College of Legal Medicine (ACLM).

ACLM’s Policy on Aid in Dying states: “… the ACLM recognizes patient autonomy and the right of a mentally competent, though terminally ill, person to hasten what might otherwise be objectively considered a protracted, undignified, or painful death, provided, however, that such person strictly complies with law specifically enacted to regulate and control such a right…” 

Doctors for Dignity concurs with the views expressed by Dr. Stuart Youngner in his commentary, A Call for a Patient-Centered Response to Legalized Assisted Dying, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine last November. Given the fact that more and more jurisdictions are authorizing medical aid in dying, “it is problematic that professional organizations have left physicians without sufficient support and guidance on how to provide the best possible care to dying patients seeking to exercise this legal right …” Engaged neutrality allows for diverse views (including the physician’s right to refuse to participate) and is “key for responsible patient care…”

The American Medical Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians and a number of state medical societies continue to review their positions on medical aid in dying. You can help by contacting your local society president and asking him or her to support engaged neutrality.